Huntsman's Run for the White House

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The first session of the Twenty-fourth Congress adjourned on the Fourth of July 1836. Huntsman returned home to his wife Elizabeth and their children whom he had not seen since November 1835. But there was little time for rest: his law practice that had been neglected during his absence required his attention, which meant attending to clients and traveling to courts across the Western District. There were constituents who sought his attention about matters in Washington and party leaders who sent invitations for him to attend political meetings and dinners.1 Then there was the 1836 presidential election, in which Huntsman held a personal interest in the candidacy of Hugh Lawson White. He had known White for thirty years as far back as his residence in Knoxville. He had studied law under White's brother-in-law, John Williams, and as a practicing attorney had argued cases before the Tennessee Supreme Court when White was a judge. The first vote Huntsman ever cast in an election was for White in the 1807 state senate contest; as a politician, he had attended dinners held in White's honor. “I think I have had a thorough opportunity of forming an accurate opinion of his talents, integrity and business habits,” he wrote. “I consider him pre-eminently qualified to fill the Presidential chair with honor to himself and usefulness to his country.”2 Like other White supporters in Tennessee, Huntsman separated his loyalty to Andrew Jackson from his objection to the successor he had chosen, Martin Van Buren. He believed White was an honest man who stood for the same republican principles as Jackson, despite charges from the president's followers that White had abandoned them and allied himself with elements of the old Federalist party.3 ... ... middle of paper ... ...e weeks before the session adjourned. If it pursued the case against Whitney and found him guilty of contempt, the only punishment it could impose was “an exquisitely nice-worded reprimand from the Speaker.”27 Notwithstanding the logic of Huntsman and several of his colleagues, the House approved the resolution to create a five-man committee of examination. Witnesses were questioned by both the committee and Whitney's attorney. Members of the House served as jury for what became a trial, not of Whitney, but the actions of Wise and Peyton against him. The proceedings came to an abrupt end on February 20, when a resolution was approved that it was “inexpedient” to continue and Whitney should be released from custody. Huntsman voted with the minority against his release, despite his earlier objection to wasting time and money holding the inquiry in the first place.28

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